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Ugh PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 27 May 2011 10:27

Woke up on my free Friday with a sense of dread. I could only lay there hating today, wishing I'd gone to work. It's like I'm facing the gallows.

I guess it goes without saying that I hate hosting ops.

I'm like an actor who has performed King Lear hundreds of times but still gets hysterical before the curtain goes up.

I read of model railroader hosts who do a little set up, a little tinkering, and eagerly await their operators. Me? I just sit and slowly freak out.

And it's such a tempest in a teacup. After my shower, I started working at 9:30am. By 11:20am, I was done with the lower and middle decks (which have most of the engines). Other than a steam engine that needed a bit of coaxing to get it running (perhaps corrosion somewhere?), I got it all working.

Tomorrow I'll spend another hour or so fixing up San Luis Obispo (six engines to clean, and some dusting). Then I'll work the paperwork and test my computerized dispatcher.

So why am I climbing trees to get ready for ops?

Behind me, silent ranks of trains wait in Watsonville, ready to roll out.

Watch for the opslog.

Last Updated on Friday, 27 May 2011 10:47
OpsLog - LM&O - 5/25/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:10

I'm running up the long hill towards Harris Glen, "66" glowing on my E-8's number boards, the cool air flowing down my passenger train's orange and red livery. It's a busy night on the line - lots of activity around Pittsburgh when I pulled out. People standing around the phones, waiting for warrants. The railroad is pretty jammed with numerous extras out on the iron. But that's Bob's problem. Tonight, the usual dispatcher gets to run!

Ahead of me, I can just make out the tight siding at Harris where the caboose of overdue 202 is just, only just getting into the clear. Jim T, one of the club's old sweats, a hogger whose been running with me over the two decades of ops we've hosted, is working his train, tossing the turnout toggle, setting the track back for the main. Good to know - I want to go past him, not smash his crummy into splinters. Rattling across the spindly Harris Glen trestle, I toggle my bell (aren't sound chips wonderful?). After all, I'll be sliding in next to him on the main along a tight left turn. I wouldn't want any inspecting crew to suddenly step out and make my bloody nose paint scheme literal. Jim's already around the peninsula and into the next aisle, seeing to the front end of his train now that the rear is clear. I give the horn a friendly honk as I pass his caboose and round the tight turn, bell ringing like Sunday.

That does it for the current warrant - I'm out of authority and will have to call for another. Time to go find a phone. Down to 20mph, I walk around the peninsula into the next aisle. Jim's already got the phone to his ear, getting ready to call for a warrant to continue.

He knows my train (passenger) is higher priority than his (freight).

With a wry smile, he hands me the phone without calling for his own warrant, deferring to the first class.

I can only spare the smallest of nods as I fetch up a warrant pad and pencil.

"Dispatcher, 66 is complete at Harris Glen, looking for a warrant..."


Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 22:33
OpsLog - Chicago & NorthWestern - 5/22/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 22 May 2011 17:27

I'm pretty down as I push the throttle to Run 3, getting the cut of colorful billboard reefers moving out of Chicago, my SP geeps clattering west over sunlit rails. I'm through Proviso, banging over the switch points, swinging onto the left-running main. As the train strings out, I sort through my waybills, not that it matters. I'm train 105 west, last train of the session, last session for this layout.

Richard's downsizing from this house, moving to an apartment. No room for this pike.

Helicopter shot - Mark McConaughyI'd like to say I was somber, that memories were flashing through my head as I passed each scene but that would just be over dramatic - I'm actually chatting anecdotes with the Chicago yard master, just running easy. I do take a moment to look at the rocky cut at the edge of the layout, one of my better rock-carving efforts. I rode over on the bike for a couple of cold nights, working to carve a neat cliff face on a curve that kept hooking long passenger cars. So I'd carve deeper clearances and accidently punch through the back. Add more plaster behind, let it sit, carve deeper. In the end, it really came out good. It looked like it was actually blasted through the rock, which, in a way, it was.

A couple of lazy loops of the mainline and then I toss the switch to enter Cheyenne. Though the ladder, slow, and roll it down to the end to clear the turnouts (not that it matters - everything in the yard is shortly going into storage boxes). Bring it up nice and easy, drop the loco from my throttle, fetch up my lunch box, open the door, climb out, and crunch away across the yard cinders. Don't look back.

I'll miss these runs. Thank's for the enjoyment, Richard.

Last Updated on Sunday, 22 May 2011 18:08
OpsLog - Central Georgia RR - 5/21/2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 21 May 2011 21:04

Conflict is part of the drama of being human.

It runs through our lives and our literature. Even in model railroad ops, where we all work in a make-believe world, all working towards the same successful economic conclusion (efficient transportation), there is conflict. Crews have to vie for the dispatcher's limited time. The dispatcher juggles scarce resources (sidings and time) to get trains over the road. Even in the operations arena, the players are trying to do the best job, if only for the cred it brings, the ego boost, the possibility of further invites.

It's all about efficiency, which is the keystone of Darwinism.

The owner of this line had a (to his perception) horrible first run of his route and wanted to improve it. His idea, the abandonment of most of the prototypical operations that make up a railroad, the discarding of rules and uncertainty (i.e. the dispatcher). In other words, pure sequential style. Crews would pick up a card that told them what to do and where to go.

The trouble was that there was no conflict. No trains met. They were all separated by their scripts. My first train, a pulpwood run, was a complete crossing of the division and the servicing of a plant - I did not encounter a single train. Yes, the Omega Man railroad. After my run I went downstairs to watch a movie (The Emperor of the North - great railroad flick).

Eventually it became obvious why railroads have dispatchers. We were all downstairs watching the movie. One poor hogger was struggling with a job and none of the other trains could run until he was through. Finally the owner gave in and started manually telling us how to proceed, just so we could finish the session. While swapping out hoppers at Jackson Yard, another train when by. Never, not since Robinson Crusoe saw the footprint in the sand (fact: readers made much more of that scene than Defoe ever intended) has one man felt so much joy at encountering his fellow. It was such a moment of pure railroadism, holding the siding for another train.

Everyone talked with the owner after, making the case for dispatched operations. I can only hope he listens.

His line, his rules. Or lack there of.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 May 2011 21:26

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